Dominican Republic. Just a few hours ago, Fr. Alexis Díaz, CMF, an assistant, and I arrived back in the capital of the Dominican Republic from Puerto Príncipe, the capital of Haiti, where we had gone to see and embrace our brothers Anistus and Beaupian.
We had left Santo Domingo at 4:00 am, and by 9:00 am we arrived in Jimani on the border with Haiti, and were welcomed by Fr. Roselio, CMF, who was busy doing everything possible to receive thousands of injured being brought from Haiti for treatment at the town’s small hospital. We went with him immediately to see for ourselves the suffering of our brothers, and even more important, to support the Dominican doctors and nurses and many volunteers. I witnessed the heartbreaking scene of a Haitian boy, maybe eleven years old, wailing not only because of his injuries but because his mother was gone and he had no idea where she was. We also visited the recently completed St. Anthony Mary Claret Multipurpose Center, where the injured are being treated. Seeing the situation, I called doctors and friends at AMAR in Puerto Rico and described it to them. They were waiting for my call and were prepared to leave immediately for Jimani, where we provided medical assistance just last month. Today, Friday, two doctors and two nurses are coming from Puerto Rico to work with the Dominican medical personnel in this mission of solidarity. They assure me that ten more medical personnel will arrive in the coming week. I am indeed grateful to God and to each one of them for their generosity.
While we were at the hospital in the center of the city, the president of the Dominican Republic, Leonel Fernández, arrived to get a firsthand look at the situation and to organize a convoy of more than thirty trucks, equipped with mobile kitchens and provisions, to take humanitarian assistance to Haiti.
It was 10:00 am, when we prepared to cross the border. I was anxious to see my brothers Anistus and Beaupian and to witness the magnitude of the catastrophe with my own eyes. Fr. Pepe, CMF, went with us. Knowing that the smallest bit of help was extremely important at this critical time, border officials were allowing everyone to cross the border without the usual formalities.
It took three hours by car to go from the border to downtown Puerto Príncipe, a trip that usually takes an hour and a half. Traffic was terrible and congestion all the worse the closer we got to downtown. Once we were there, we saw for ourselves what MCS had told us. The vast majority of concrete structures had collapsed completely. I am not at all acquainted with the capital, but Frs. Pepe and Alexis let me lead the way. So, I trusted my good sense of direction to get us to our house in Delmas, though I admit I was frightened me at seeing the city in its present condition and had no idea where we were going. For almost an hour we tried one blind alley after another, while I tried to remember names of streets, looking for our brothers, who didn’t know we were coming, since neither internet nor cell phones were working. There were moments when I doubted we’d make it, but after a number of wrong turns I gradually began to get my bearings, and we finally got to Delmas and found our house. Parking the car, I knocked on the large green iron door and called Anistus’ name. Within moments, a little Haitian girl with drooping eyes opened the door, surprised to see these “white men”, who were going to solve the problem. Greeting her as best I could, I went in and saw Fr. Anistus resting on the sofa on the patio. Hearing us, he got up, absolutely overjoyed, then began crying, letting everyone to see his mixed feelings of sorrow, frustration, confusion, happiness at seeing us, gratitude… After a warm hug, he offered to show us the house. He said Fr. Beaupian had gone to Kasal, our rural mission station an hour from the capital. We went through the house, which has huge cracks everywhere, and would not withstand another aftershock. Our men are sleeping outside on the patio, along with a few acquaintances and neighbors, who have lost everything. Next, we went to Nason to see what remained of the buildings of our parish of St. Anthony Mary Claret. As you can see in the pictures I have sent, they were completely destroyed. The large ten year old church was leveled. The spiritual edifice, however, which we and the people of Nason have built over the years, continues to produce the best of fruit at this critical moment. How can I forget the faces of members of the parish youth group, who grew up in this Christian community and who were so helpful during last month’s medical operation? Though grieving at the sight of their church in ruins, they smile sincerely. The place holds so many memories, part of their brief life histories and engraved in their hearts. I asked about their families and fortunately they are well. The caretaker, an old man, who was inside on the second floor at the time of the quake, miraculously survived. When the building collapsed, he slid into a safe place. These are our people…our people! There is still chaos all across the city. Forty-eight hours after the quake, neither international, let alone national assistance, has arrived – anywhere. People aimlessly wander the streets, hunkering down in parks, fields, stations, gasoline stations. Thousands of refugees have no roof over their heads. Decomposing corpses are on every street. Groups of people look for survivors in the debris. After our short visit, which for its intensity seemed long to me, we said good-bye to Anistus (and in our hearts to Beaupian). I assured him of our communion with them, the best wishes and concern of Fr. General and of the entire Congregation. I blessed them and told them to go to our community in Jimani as soon as possible, to recuperate and to prepare to continue this effort of love and solidarity, which has begun with our people in Haiti.
That is all for now. (Attached are some photographs).
Fr. HECTOR CUADRADO, CMF.
Major Superior of the Antilles
PS. We returned to Jimani and promised Fr. Roselio to send all the aid we receive from our communities in the Antilles, as well as from the Congregation around the world, to assist the people of our communities.
As you know, we have about ten Haitian seminarians, who still have not heard from their families. I will meet with them at the seminary, explain the situation and pray with them. I have asked them to go home to look for their families. We do not know what they will find. I ask you to pray for these young men. Their situation is very difficult and this is only the beginning. We and the formation community are joined in prayer for them in preparation and blessing for their trip to Haiti. Let us accompany them spiritually!